Dr Helen Fitt

E-scooters and pedestrians on collision course

by Mike Isle

Lincoln University post-doctoral researcher, Dr Helen Fitt, says tensions between e-scooter users and pedestrians are problematic and “not likely to go away”.

Dr Fitt and colleague Dr Angela Curl of the University of Otago recently conducted a survey on the use of e-scooters in New Zealand. Initial findings show 90% of scooter users had ridden on the footpath, but only half of the users and around a quarter of non-users think that is the right place to ride them.

“There is a lot of contention about scooter use on footpaths from other footpath users including older people and people with disabilities,” she said.

“Some scooter users are aware they are not wanted on footpaths. It makes them uncomfortable.”

She said that riders were often not confident in traffic and felt unable to signal by taking their hands off the handlebars; this means the scooters are generally not suitable for the road.

“Scooters are very popular for good reasons, but our survey suggests they currently don’t fit well within existing infrastructure.” Dr Fitt said the scooters are part of the electric vehicle movement, which is blurring the lines between transport modes.

“It is becoming less clear what belongs where and which rules apply,” she said.

“We need to start some serious conversations about how to integrate new modes of transport into urban environments.”

“We might need to consider infrastructural zones based on speed not vehicle type, with slow, medium and fast zones instead of pedestrian, cycle and vehicle zones.”

Dr Fitt said scooters are part of “electric micro-mobility and wider changes in transport”.

In May the Selwyn District Council approved a six-month trial of e-scooters in the district.